From a fashion standpoint, the wearing of white denim is generally frowned upon after Labor Day. From a musical standpoint, the band White Denim was warmly welcomed when it played at Putnam Place in Saratoga Springs on Saturday night, turning in a sweaty, intense performance that lasted over two hours.
The unconventional four-piece Austin, Texas, rock band may be familiar to local audiences from appearances at several high-profile festivals in the region — including MASS MoCA’s Solid Sound festival and the Catskills’ Mountain Jam in 2013. It also headlined Albany’s Tulip Festival in 2018 and played several Capital District club dates in the years leading up to that.
Since those earlier dates, guitarist Austin Jenkins and drummer Josh Block left the band, leaving frontman James Petralli on vocals and guitars and Steve Terebecki on vocals and bass. The pair added new drummer Greg Clifford and keyboardist Michael Hunter instead of a second guitar.
The genre-shifting group — which melds punk, blues, psychedelic rock and jam music — displayed a nonstop intensity at the crowded Putnam Place, seamlessly segueing from one high-energy song to the next.
For fans, it hit a sweet spot between the catchy art-rock of “Drug” and the jam-band digressions of songs like “Backseat Driver.” It blended blasts of raw punk with shifting time signatures and prog-rock noodling on “Head Spinning,” “Shake Shake Shake,” “It Might Get Dark,” “I Can Tell,” “I Start to Run,” “Cheer Up / Blues Ending” and “Shanalala.”
Only occasionally did it slow the pace on quieter numbers like R&B-inspired “Take It Easy (Ever After Lasting Love)” and “Street Joy,” one of its best songs.
Although White Denim’s sound is muscular and precise, you can dance to it. As a frontman, Petralli embraces his nerd-rock inclinations, making the sort of awkward, contorted faces that guitarists spend hours practicing away in the mirror. But he seems possessed at times and enraptured by his own music, which can be contagious.
“You guys still with us?” Petralli asked at 11:30 p.m., about an hour into the tireless band’s set. White Denim would play for 75 minutes more, clocking nearly 20 songs before ending shy of 1 a.m. with quirky blues howler “Fine Slime.”
Spaceface, a psychedelic pop band from Memphis, Tennessee, featuring members from the touring crew of the Flaming Lips, opened. “Panoramic View,” its new single, featured the reverb-laden vocals of singer-guitarist Jake Ingalls and had a funky edge. Like White Denim, the group had a shape-shifting feel, melding rock and pop with funkified rhythms and hazy psychedelics bolstered by a swirling light show. The band (named after a line from David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust,” perhaps) also treated the crowd to a well-received cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.”
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Categories: Life and Arts